Match Report / Union

Match report: Philadelphia Union 3-1 Club Tijuana

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

The Philadelphia Union kicked off their Leagues Cup campaign in style, decimating Club Tijuana 3-1 in front of a boisterous crowd at Subaru Park.

First half

The Union were in their traditional blue and a 4-4-2, while Tijuana wore a shade of red from the color palette, “Highlighters,” in a surprise 3-5-2.

Speaking of color, the match started brightly and, in a flurry of brush strokes, the Apple TV+ feed cut out twice, Julián Carranza nearly volleyed a parry in from close range, and the Union had half a shot off the ensuing corner. It was only the fourth minute and only the beginning of the end to end pace.

In the 18th minute, Tijuana’s high press came undone. Pushing forward, a square pass from the visitors ended up on the foot of the Union’s Jose Martinez who picked up his head, saw Carranza running diagonally through the Xolos backline, and on to goal. The striker’s shot was high, but a foul during the swing by center back Nicolas Diaz was ruled to be a red card – a clear denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, no attempt on the ball – and a penalty.

Daniel Gazdag stepped up and rifled the shot left, sending the goalkeeper right. Just like that, it was 1-0 Union and a man up as well.

Following another scrumptious ball over the top by Martinez this time to Olivier Mbaizo, the Union nearly doubled their lead but, in a sequence that looked a bit like bumper pool, five shots were taken and the ball still stayed out. Carranza changed that outcome shortly thereafter off a whipped in cross from Kai Wagner, slipping the ball through the goalkeeper’s legs, but his tally was ruled offside – until VAR decided otherwise.

It was 2-0 Union, a scoreline they held into halftime.

Second half

In the first minute of the second half, Tijuana made things interesting. Overlapping on the left side, the visitors sent a cross in that Carlos Gonzalez smashed into the bottom corner on the half volley. It was clean, easy, and sudden – putting the Union on the back foot after feeling so good moments prior.

Another moment later, a clumsy foul by Mbaizo at the corner of the box led to a Tijuana penalty. Only thanks to Andre Blake, having already made several massive saves in the first half, dove low and to his left, was the spot kick kept out. The Union maintained the lead but the game was a-boil.

After a pair of Union substitutions, Tijuana lost anther player to a red card.

This time it was Mikael Uhre though the red line and the guest’s Kevin Balanta chasing and then scything him down. It was an all or nothing challenge that got absolutely nothing – dangerous at any point, but especially given the circumstances. Speaking of nothing, nothing came of the ensuing free kick but it was obviously still a seminal moment losing the second of two starting center backs for this match and the next.

Tijuana needed to substitute their goalkeeper, a third player missing from their Best XI, and it seemed as though some of their energy sapped as a result – so the Union began to tighten the screws. Carranza made sure the pressure paid off, putting a cut back cross low into the near post corner and giving the hosts a two-goal lead again. It was part of a beautiful sequence, and was efficient and effective as Tijuana’s confidence had grown.

Instead, waves of Union players attacked and defended, flooding the visiting half with a sea of blue. Tijuana had lost, “the wind in their sails,” as said commentator Danny Higginbotham, and looked dead in the water. Philadelphia were happy to tread and wait out the inevitable result, magenta blood in the Delaware River flow.

Philadelphia Union 

Blake, Wagner, Elliott, Glesnes (Lowe, 79′), Mbaizo (Harriel, 55′), Martinez (Real, 79′), McGlynn, Bueno, Gazdag, Sullivan (Uhre, 55′), Carranza

Unused subs: Bendik, Trent, Perea, Rafanello, Torres, Donovan

Club Tijuana

A. Rodriguez (Corona, 68′), Vega (Contreras, 45′), Diaz, Balanta, Barbosa, Rivera, Fernandez, Tona, L. Rodriguez (Parra), Canelo (Castaneda, 68′), Gonzalez

Unused subs: Diaz, Mejia, Godinez, A. Martinez, Madrigal, Armentat, Cavallini, Romero

Scoring Summary

PHI – Daniel Gazdag, 21′

PHI – Julian Carranza, 28′

CTJ – Carlos Gonzalez, 46′

PHI – Julian Carranza, 71′

Discipline Summary

CTJ – Nicolas Diaz, 18′ RED

CTJ – Miguel Herrera, 32′

PHI – Jose Martinez, 35′

CTJ – Kevin Balanta, 56′ RED

PHI – Damion Low, 90+4′


  1. Andy Muenz says:

    That was an insane match. Clearly the best 3 players on the pitch were the Tijuana starting keeper, Blake, and the Tijuana backup keeper. Easily could have been 10-5 final. 2 DOGSO reds, a PK for each team. Each team kicked a ball over the river end about 5 minutes apart.
    It was weird that before the game they only played the US national anthem, a recorded version with no flag or players on the field. Not sure why it wasn’t both anthems or neither (I would have preferred neither considering Sullivan and McGlynn were the only two Americans starting.)
    Stands were probably about 70% full. I’m guessing they’ll be a lot emptier Wednesday when the game isn’t included in the season ticket package.

    • Eric Boyle says:

      Totally agree. Union never play well against 10 men. Credit to Tijuana defense and keepers. Of course in the second half we put most of our shots right at the keeper.

      I saw a few empty STH seats in my section but also other people who just came out to see a game. The same people who leave in the 80th minute. Remember that Wednesday is fireworks night, so that might bring some people out.

  2. Bizarre that both countries anthems were not played and not an American flag flying over the stadium. Along with both teams MIA during the one played.

  3. Good for bueno getting an assist. He’s been so good all season

  4. What was the thinking about playing music during play stoppages? ie goal kicks. This doesn’t have to be the NBA or MLB. Dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. And yeah, why play the anthem with the players in the locker room at all if you aren’t going to play the Mexican national anthem. Seemed disrespectful. Yet at the Messi game broadcast I did notice they had a singer for the US anthem, I thought the broadcast just cut to commercial during the Mexican anthem. Perhaps they cut to commercial because there was no Mexican anthem.

    • I think the music during goal kicks has been going on in all stadiums for Leagues Cup and is supposed to drown out the p*to chants if they pop up

  5. Winning ugly seems to be the theme for this year’s Union. That was mostly atrocious. Particularly our attack. It’s not at all convincing. We’re moving the ball through the middle third fine, but the finish is really lacking. Maybe I’m being harsh, but I didn’t see much out there to inspire confidence. Could be that the game was officiated at maximum CONCACAF. That first pen was soft and I’m not sure the second DOGSO red was even a foul. Feel bad for any Tijuana fans who paid to see that.

    • Came here to say the same thing. Ref let the game get out of control to the point where he was squaring up with players from both teams? And why was there no angle of the second red card where you could even see whether he got the ball (as he might have)? But really great entertainment and I was impressed with how hard Tijuana fought.

      • Any idea who the referee was and where he works?

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Oshane Nation. He’s from Jamaica (although I don’t know where he works) and he did 2 games at the recent Gold Cup. Looking at the Wikipedia page for the group stage of the tournament, none of the refs so far appear to MLS refs.

  6. A meaningless tournament.Play the kids and second team bench players as field players starters. No reward to team in playing Bedoya at all. All starting attacking players should only play a half. Don’t know if they have modified number of subs for this tournament, but I would guess that 90 % of the starters would rather skip this stupid tournament. Another Garber Apple bad idea.

    • This stupid tournament has like 5 times the prize money as winning the CCL and Liga MX still dwarfs MLS when it comes to viewership. This tournament is completely based on the economics of the situation and both leagues want it to succeed. It probably will too because the reality of the situation is this are the only two leagues that matter on this continent.

      So just sit back and enjoy the ride. Right now this is a dumb and stupid thing but I have no doubt in a few years it’s become established as another trophy teams want to win.

      • Not if attendance is poor or ad sales suck… but then good old Don will set it up as Rollerball, Tron in a video studio.

        F the loyal fans.

        He couldn’t get control over US Open Cup, so f*ck US Soccer and we’ll, start our own that we own 50% of.

        P*ss poor.

        I would not p** on Don Garber if he were on fire.

  7. YAWN….. Not paying “Don Grabmoremoney” another dime for this money grab.



    Can’t wait for Aug 20th.

    And PLEASE, NO INJURIES in this abomination!

    PS: US Open Cup, but Garber didn’t own it.

  8. Trade Nola for Otani, straight up…. and sign him for a billion.

    Comcast pays Middleton $2B a year… Give Me A Break.

  9. santo bevacqua says:

    The level of play, its quality and participation has increased, and it is truly the global game, however i feel almost a sense of exploitation resulting in saturation of the sport. Anyone see it?

  10. Garber is a fraud, who has taken control over US Soccer like Sepp did at FIFA.

    Audit he and his families investments, cash, and bank account transactions

    … just like Biden. Accounting never lies.

  11. For the PK and red, I thought it should have been yellow for DOGSO since the PK was awarded. If outside the box it’s red.

  12. soccerdad720 says:

    I’ll just pass on this “silver lining” fact my rep told me on Saturday night: All the league cups matches are being played in MLS stadiums. (stadia? LOL) …..and with the union being ranked 2nd based on last years finish, we will ONLY play on the road if it’s to play against LAFC.

    Which means……if Miami keeps winning, Messi will play in chestah sooner than we thought, and all (soccer) eyes in North America could be here soon too.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      And those of us who want to recoup the cost of tickets for the rest of the games should easily be able to.

    • Gruncle Bob says:

      Small caveat – the U must finish first in their group to get the home field.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Even then, they would still play host to any Mexican teams (potentially UNAM in the round of 32). Plus I’m guessing they would still host any other MLS teams they play who also finish second in their group.

      • Eric Boyle says:

        Another caveat – that is not the advantage it seems against the larger Mexican Clubs. I felt like an away supporter at the CCL game against Club America! I had a hard time picking out the few Union fans in attendance. It was not an experience I want to repeat.

      • Deez Nuggs says:

        I wonder if the U could reserve seats for supporters and limit the number of away fans. Doesn’t seem a mechanism, but at the CCL game against LAFC, we did not feel in the majority and the away supporters behind my son and I were doing the ‘forbidden’ chant.

      • Deez Nuggs: “I wonder if the U could reserve seats for supporters and limit the number of away fans.”

        Or maybe STH could hang onto their seats and attend? And Union fans could buy seats. The Club America game was a disgrace because so many STH did not purchase their seats.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        The Club America game was unusual because the earlier rounds of the tournament were played while the COVID protocols were still in place and the stadium was only about 15% full, plus they were about 4 months earlier so there was no momentum for that game. It was more of a stand alone than the semifinals of a tournament.
        We’ll start to see tomorrow what things might be like for this tournament since it will be the first game of the tourney not in the STH package.

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